The massive 5-alarm fire happened around 9:00 a.m. Thursday, May 18, in the 700 block of Liberty Row Road. As emergency crews and firefighters arrived at the scene, they observed heavy smoke and large flames showing from the multi-story construction site.
Firefighters were able to rescue 15 people who were trapped inside the building, including one worker who was stuck 210 feet above ground in a crane.
The next day, on May 19, emergency crews discovered the remains of Demonte Sherrill and Ruben Holmes, who were construction workers on the project.
On Wednesday, June 7, Charlotte Fire announced that several fire codes were not met in connection to May’s deadly fire. During their investigation, it was discovered that no active standpipe had been installed in the apartment complex that was under construction.
Fire officials said a standpipe, or riser, is a type of rigid water piping built into multi-story buildings in a vertical position or into bridges in a horizontal position, to which fire hoses can be connected, allowing manual water application to a fire.
“Charlotte Fire cannot provide documentation showing a standpipe was installed and operation on any floors,” the department said on Wednesday.
Charlotte Fire said for the construction type and size of this building, the general contractor is obligated by Mecklenburg County to contact the Charlotte Fire Marshal’s Office before construction exceeding 40 feet in height on construction sites.
“Typically, once a building reached 40 feet, the general contractor is required by Mecklenburg County to contact Charlotte Fire Prevention to inform the Fire Marshal’s office of their progress,” the department explained. “At the time of the fire, the building was at six stories, four of which were of wood frame construction.”
Charlotte Fire explained that, at the time of the 5-alarm fire, the Charlotte Fire Marshal’s Office hadn’t received communication from the contractor/builder before May 18, 2023. Therefore, a fire inspection had not been performed.
“At the point of this building’s construction, a minimum of one exit was required by code. The building did meet that requirement,” the department explained.
Charlotte Fire said they determined the 5-alarm blaze began in a trailer on the first floor of the building. Fire investigators determined multiple accidental heat sources were inside the trailer.
The fire remains under investigation by Charlotte Fire and the Fire Marshal’s Office.